Dena Stewart, a self-taught visionary artist, picked up a paintbrush for the first time shortly after turning thirty. Her colorful canvases express her life experiences, dreams and beliefs. One of her early works, “Christmas Tree in the City” was part of the 1982, ‘83, and ‘84 UNICEF Greeting Card Collection. In 1989 the card was reissued, with more than three million “Christmas Tree in the City” cards sold world-wide. That year Dena humbly served as an Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and was awarded her first Miami Beach Proclamation declaring November 16, 1989 Dena Stewart Day.
Another Dimension – A more recent painting style that combines images with imagination
Born, raised and educated in Manhattan, Dena graduated from Pace University with a degree in business education. Before becoming a professional artist, she taught High School in New York, was an editor for a large textbook publishing company, and personnel manager for a national department stores chain.
Along with her husband, artist Stewart Stewart, Dena relocated from NYC to Miami Beach, FL in 1987. As painters with studio/exhibition space on Lincoln Road and a salon at the Island Club (bar/nightspot), Stewart and Dena actively shared the pioneering spirit and camaraderie of the early South Beach scene.
After Hurricane Andrew hit, destroying much of south Florida yet missing Miami Beach by a mere few degrees, with appreciation of their good luck and a desire to pass it forward, Dena and Stewart changed the name of Deco Echo Artists’ Delegation, a non-profit organization they founded to raise awareness of the Arts and Culture on Miami Beach, to Center for Folk and Community Art; the new mission being to use the combination of writing & visual art as tools for intervention, prevention and education to address community issues and improve the human condition.
Their nationally acclaimed Telling Stories Through Visuals curriculum was selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as a model outreach program. Telling Stories Through Visuals is a Lesson Card in the SRA/McGraw-Hill reading and language arts program – Imagine it! a comprehensive literacy tool used in schools in more than 50 countries around the world.
Dena was honored by the Miami Beach Commission on the Status of Women as a “Woman Worth Knowing” with another City Proclamation declaring March 28, 2001 Dena Stewart Day.
In addition to facilitating art outreach programs to address social issues, since 2011, Stewart and Dena produce Alive on South Beach®™, an entertaining online video show. Initially on Syndicated News Network (SNN.bz), an international news-gathering site viewed by millions of people around the world, as their content grew, they moved to their own platform AliveonSouthBeach.com, remaining linked to SNN.bz.
As a published writer, Dena’s book, “Inner Peace … It Isn’t Out There!” is available thru Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Additionally, “Miami … off The Page!” an anthology of short stories by the Women Writers Group of South Beach, includes two of Dena’s short stories. And in 2021, Dena’s book “THE BOOK OF STORY RHYMES – Tales of Unpredictable People and the Baggage They Carry” was published. (Available on Amazon) https://aliveonsouthbeach.com/the-book-of-story-rhymes/
In 2020, Dena’s personal Miami Story was included in the History Miami Museum and is preserved in the Museum’s archive. The Miami Stories initiative collects stories about Miami’s past, present, and future. The History Miami Museum documents life in the Magic City through both written submissions and audio recordings, which are preserved in the museum’s archive, and shared online and through local media outlets.
My husband, Stewart Stewart and I, Dena Stewart, landed at MIA in November of 1986 for a two-week vacation on the beach. The South Florida Art Center was new on Lincoln Road and as artists, Stewart and I were enticed by the opportunities we were offered – a 1,000 sq. ft. storefront studio/gallery space for $100 a month. Two months later, in January 1987, we left New York and became Miamians. We were the first out-of-state artists to benefit from the grant awarded to the SFAC.
During the 33 years I have lived in Miami Beach, I have served and promoted the greater Miami community as an activist, serving on Commission-appointed committees and as a presenter of cultural events.
In 1990, Stewart and I founded Deco Echo Artists’ Delegation (non-profit organization) to raise awareness of the culture on the Beach. Now d/b/a Center for Folk and Community Art, we use our original nationally recognized outreach program “Telling Stories Through Visuals” to address social issues by combining writing and illustrating activities for intervention, prevention and education.
In 2001, I was recognized as a “Woman Worth Knowing” by the Miami Beach Commission on the Status of Women. I served on the board of the first Miami Beach Women’s Conference and was recognized by Miami County and Miami Beach with Proclamations for my community involvement. In 2010, Stewart and I created, and for the past ten years have been producing, an online video show called “Alive on South Beach” (for Syndicated News Network). We go behind the scenes at events to talk with the wonderful people, celebrities, visitors, and locals, who make Miami, MIAMI.
Stewart and I gave up our upper East Side high rise apartment in Manhattan to make Miami Beach our home. I have never even considered leaving Miami. We love it here. When we travel, our video show Alive on South Beach goes on the road with us, and Miami is always promoted.
What makes Miami, Miami? A picture – in my case, Alive on South Beach videos show what makes Miami, Miami! The multi-national congeniality of the community, the many art and cultural venues, the sand, sun and palm trees, and the quirky people, all together give Miami a flavor unlike any other.
Having lived and worked in Miami Beach for 33 years, I have seen the evolution of Miami, the development, gentrification, ups and downs of the social and cultural scenes, hurricanes, and gorgeous weather. I trust the future will be as exciting as its past.
Beginning in 2011 – current date, Dena and Stewart produce Alive on South Beach, a video show that goes behind the scenes at events, to talk with the celebrities and locals who make South Beach … SOUTH BEACH!
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